Fires fry county budgets - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Fires fry county budgets

May 3, 2007

Atkinson County --  The Southeast Georgia wildfires are putting a strain on county budgets.
For some, the costs will reach millions dollars. With the governor's state of emergency declaration, at least part of the cost will be paid by the state, and that's welcomed news.

The fire in Atkinson County has been burning hard in the Roundabout Swamp for nearly a week. "It sounds like a hurricane in there," said Atkinson Commission Chairman Edwin "Tater" Davis.  "And it will even pull 6 inch trees out of the dirt!  Can you imagine that?"

But what's even harder for them to imagine is what the cost of the fire will add up to. "Certainly, we did not have all this budgeted.  We weren't prepared for this!" said Davis.

And they've been keeping track of their spendings so they can ask the state for help.  "Fuel, labor, equipment, everything so hopefully when this gets over we'll be able to recover some of those expenses."

And the state is ready to lend a hand by declaring a State of Emergency for 21 counties in Southeast Georgia.

That's good news for those battling the Roundabout fire, and other fires throughout the state. "We need access to all the state resources and this declaration will allow them to participate at a larger degree," said Atkinson EMA Director David Moore.

For example, "State resources such as DOT cannot go off of state right-of-way and we've needed roads closed.  This declaration will do things like allow DOT to help close county roads," said Moore.

Atkinson County will be appealing for federal assistance as well, to help them battle this long term blaze.

Atkinson County Commissioner aren't sure yet how much the fire will cost them by the time it's out but say it could not be done without the help and resources from their neighboring counties and the state.

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